Saturday, April 18, 2015
[Santa Barbara County] Guadalupe should stay the course
As a general rule, when the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury speaks, people listen — and on occasion, some of those people speak back.
Such is the case with city officials in Guadalupe, concerning the panel’s recent report critical of the city’s fiscal situation and leading to a recommendation that Guadalupe disincorporate.
According to law, the city has 90 days to respond to the grand jury’s recommendation, but judging from the quick and verbal response from City Council members and administrators, we’re confident the blowback at the panel’s report won’t take three months.
For one thing, problems identified in the report are based on information and data supplied to the grand jury by city officials. So, they already knew what the jury’s findings would likely be, long before the report came out a week ago Friday.
Basically, the report boils down to the city demonstrating a history of fiscal mismanagement, a lack of revenue to make things better, with the only logical conclusion being to give up cityhood and convert to a community services district, because solvency is out of the question.
In other words, the grand jury recommends Guadalupe give up its identity, and throw itself on the mercy of a benevolent county government.
Giving up is the last thing Guadalupe should do.
That sentiment will likely be expressed in the city’s response to the grand jury report. We say that with some confidence, because the city’s voters recently took steps to help remedy some of the fiscal issues by passing ballot measures meant to increase the city’s revenue stream.
Members of the City Council and recent additions to city staff have been acutely aware of financial mismanagement in years past. The panel’s allegation that the city owes the IRS more than $450,000 is just flat wrong, according to City Administrator Andrew Carter.
Misstatement of facts in final reports from grand juries over the years is not uncommon. The jury is comprised of what are essentially citizen volunteers, some of whom have personal agendas that often are reflected in the research that goes into each grand jury project. Civil grand juries are anything but infallible.
All that being said, one undeniable fact is that such reports serve as a wake-up call for whomever or whatever is being reported upon. And while the facts of the Guadalupe report were known to all the city’s elected officials and staff, having the report on the public record is a kind of insurance that the proper steps will be taken to clean up the city’s house, so to speak.
The Guadalupe report, as scathing as it may have seemed to city officials, also serves as a reminder to officials in other cities and taxing districts in the county that being asleep at the wheel, or outright malfeasance when it comes to government entities’ fiscal responsibilities is unacceptable. The laid-back, good-ol’-boy approach to municipal management is a thing of the distant past.
The three ballot measures approved by voters last November signaled citizens’ faith in elected and hired city officials to get Guadalupe on the right track, and keep it there. We believe the voters’ confidence easily trumps the grand jury’s conclusion that the city is headed toward insolvency, with the only path being disincorporation.
Besides, following the grand jury’s suggestion would only throw Guadalupe in with a county government that has a long history of fiscal problems.
April 18, 2015